Soul Nourishment First
by George Mueller
[Edited and adapted to modern English usage by Rev Joe Purcell]
It has pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, the benefit of which I have not lost, for more than fourteen years. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord.
The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For though I might seek to witness to the lost, or to benefit other believers, or to relieve the distressed, or in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this
world; nevertheless, if I myself am not happy in the Lord, and have not been nourished and
strengthened in my inner man day by day, all of these other things might not be done in the
Before this time my habitual practice had been, at least for ten years previously, to give myself to
prayer immediately after having gotten dressed in the morning. Now, I saw that the most
important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to
meditate on it, so that in this way my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned,
reproved, instructed; and that, by means of the Word of God, while meditating on it, my heart
might be brought into experiential communion with the Lord.
I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning.
The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord's blessing upon his precious Word,
was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching into every verse to get blessing out of
it; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but simply for the sake of
obtaining food for my own soul. The result almost invariably is this, that after a very few minutes
I have been led into prayer of some sort, whether confession, or thanksgiving, or intercession, or
supplication; so that, although I do not give myself specifically to prayer, but rather to
meditation, nevertheless my meditation upon the Word turns almost immediately more or less
After a time of confession, or intercession, or supplication, or giving of thanks arising out of my
meditation upon a few words or a verse, I then go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I
go on, into prayer for myself or for others, as the Word may lead to it, but still continually
keeping before me that food for my own soul is the goal of my meditation. The result of this is,
that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession
mingled with my meditation, and my inner man is nourished and strengthened spiritually, so
that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I find myself in a peaceful and happy state of
heart. In addition, not only am I fed spiritually, but also during these times of meditation the
Lord also communicates to me truth which later I find to be spiritual food for other believers—
even though in the first place it was not for the sake of teaching or preaching or the public
ministry of the Word that I gave myself to meditation, but simply for the profit of my own inner
The difference between the way I prayed before and the way I pray now is this: Before, when I
awoke, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer.
But what was the result? I often spent 15 to 30 minutes or even an hour on my knees in prayer
before deriving any benefit from it, and often, I would really begin to pray only after having had
my mind wander for the first 10, 15 or 30 minutes. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way because
my heart, having first been nourished by the truth of God's Word, has been brought into
experiential fellowship with God. As I commune with God around His Word, I then speak to Him
as my Father and my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it) about the things that He has
brought before me in His precious Word. It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see
I never read about this method in a book, nor did anyone ever tell me about it. And yet, now, ever
since God taught me this concerning meditation and prayer, it is as plain to me as anything, that
the first thing the child of God should do every morning is to first obtain food for his inner man.
Just as our outward man is not capable of working long unless we eat, and as this is one of the
first things that we do each morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food as
well for the inner man.
Now, what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not
merely reading the Word of God without comprehension, so that it simply passes through our
minds like water running through a pipe, but instead, taking time to consider what we read,
pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.
When we pray, we speak to God. Now, prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time
from the heart, generally requires a certain amount of inward strength or godly desire, and the
time when prayer can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished
by meditation on the Word of God—where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us,
to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us.
We can profitably meditate, with God’s blessing, even though we are ever so weak spiritually; in
fact, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man.
When we pray in this manner, our minds will wander far less than if we simply give ourselves to
prayer without first taking time to meditate.
I emphasize this point so much because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I have
gotten from it myself, and I strongly encourage all my fellow believers to consider what I have
said. I believe that it is because of this method of meditation and prayer that I have received from
God the help and strength to pass in peace through deeper trials than I had ever had before; and
after having now practiced this method for over fourteen years, I can most fully recommend it to
In addition to meditating on the New Testament and praying like this first thing in the morning,
it is my practice later in the day to read larger portions of the Word of God, as I read
systematically through the Bible, sometimes in the New Testament, and sometimes in the Old,
and for more than twenty-six years I have proved the blessedness of it. I also take other
opportunities during the day just to pray.
How different it is when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it
is when the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon one without such